by Stephen Downes
Jan 27, 2016
Exploring faculty use of Open Educational Resources in B.C. post-secondary institutions
Tajiv S. Jhangiani, Rdebecca Pitt, Christina Hendricks, Jessie Key, Clint Lalonde,
The subhead of this report (40 page PDF) describes it as follows: "The findings in this report provide a snapshot of the B.C. post-secondary system as a whole, we also explore similarities and differences in OER use among faculty across the three institution types in British Columbia: research-intensive universities, teaching-intensive universities, and colleges/institutes." It shows there's still a significant need to promote awareness of the benefits of OERs in the system, even one with as advanced an OER program as British Columbia. P.S. It contains this gem for the anti-learning-styles set: "Faculty who score higher on the personality trait of openness (to experience) were more likely to both adapt and create OER."
European Education, Training and Youth Forum 2015
European Education, Training, Youth Forum,
This is the report (23 page PDF) summarizing the results of this conference held in October. It reflects some of the tensions inherent in developing an education strategy in a multi-stakeholder environment. I'm not just referring to nations and nationalities. Consider the tension between this: "promoting citizenship and the common values of freedom, tolerance and non-discrimination" and this: "we must ensure that the right skills are developed and delivered to match the needs of the current labour market." Are students fully functional and autonomous citizens, or are they products to be delivered? The report also addresses the increase in non-formal education and the need to develop policy more collaboratively and inclusively. And there is an undercurrent of thought relating the role of education with respect to both radicalism and the recent refugee crisis. There are good summaries of each of the talks, some of which would have been well worth attending, such as the presentation by C. Mitja Jermol of Slovenia.
Stephen Gordon: How to get more Canadians into university? Don’t reduce tuition fees
This is an old (old old old) argument, yet it gets trotted out every once in a while by some economist. The perpetrator in this case is Stephen Gordon from Laval. Here's the gist: higher-income students form the majority at universities, so higher-income students would benefit disproportionately from tuition fee reductions, therefore, fees should not be reduced. If we apply the same logic to caviar, we can see the flaw: yes, the higher-income caviar-eaters would benefit, but with a lower price, more people would eat caviar, especially from among the lower-income strata. Gordon's argument is based on pretending that price is not a deterrent to lower-income students (he distracts us by pointing to the greater impact of lost wages), but of course, while no single price reduction is sufficient, all forms of price reduction are necessary. Of course, as a university professor, Gordon already knows all this, so the real question here is, why is he writing, and the Post publishing, such tripe?
The PhD is in need of revision
If you ask me, this is what I think the problem is with PhD programs: “Part of the problem, I think, is that a large part of the academy still believes they are creating Mini-Me’s or clones,” says Dr. Doering. “The only way I see it changing is to get a buy-in from the vast majority of the academy that this is a problem.” I think back on my own experience, and while continued funding might have helped, support for pursuing something interesting and original would have helped even more. Limiting the number of admissions wouldn't have done a thing, because I was always going to easily qualify, and shortening the time-frame would have required changes on the part of the institution, not myself.
How to Succeed with Badges Without Really Trying
Video from the recent Instructure conference. Here's the outline: "Looking to gamify Canvas courses? Want to award badges to students who complete learning objectives? This interactive session will help you climb the ladder from simple window-washer to big-time Canvas Badges expert. You will learn about incentives for learning to enhance student outcomes and ideas to engage students." (I love this line: "The student needs to learn the skill, not the skill by Friday'." More resources are available here.
Fear of Screens
The New Inquiry,
Nathan Jurgenson responds to Sherry Turkle's recent book, Reclaiming Conversation, with the question, "Why would anyone want to believe that people who are communicating with phones have forgotten what friendship is?" I think it's a good question, because the depiction of an online life as empty and soulless is not an accurate reflection of the reality. Jurgenson suggests, "Turkle’s claims may feel commonsensical in part because they are self-flattering: They let us suspect that we are the last humans standing in a world of dehumanized phone-toting drones... Turkle makes the unqualified and unsupported assumption that real conversation, connection, and personhood must happen without the screen." In essence, I would say, Turkle is inferring from an 'is to an 'ought', where her critique of digital media is based on some 'natural' way of having relationships.
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